Solar, geothermal led new US capacity in January 2014

by PretiFlaherty
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Solar and geothermal resources led the new utility-scale electric generating capacity installed in the U.S. in January 2014, according to a report by the staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  In all, the report identified 325 megawatts of new generation placed in service in January, substantially all of which is powered by renewable resources.

Old Faithful Geyser erupts in Yellowstone National Park -- a natural geothermal feature.

Solar power contributed the largest share of new generating capacity installed in January, with 287 megawatts of solar projects placed in service.  The largest project, Exelon Corp.'s Antelope Valley Solar Phase II expansion project in Los Angeles County, California, added 130 megawatts of capacity to an existing 230 megawatt project.  The power generated is sold to Pacific Gas and Electric under long-term contract.  Other large new solar projects include MidAmerican Solar’s 61 MW Topaz Solar Farm Phase III expansion project in San Luis Obispo County, California, and two 20 MW projects (Duke Energy Corp.’s Dogwood Solar Power project in Halifax County, North Carolina, and NextEra Energy Inc.’s Mountain View Solar project in Clark County, Nevada).  All of these projects rely on long-term power purchase agreements with utilities.

Geothermal steam power was the second largest category of new electric generating capacity placed in service in January 2014, in the form of Gradient Resources Inc.’s 30 MW Patua Hot Springs Geothermal project in Lyon County, Nevada.  As with the solar projects described above, the power generated by the Patua Hot Springs project is sold to a utility -- in this case, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, under a long-term contract.

Rounding out the new capacity installations in January were 3 small biomass units with a combined capacity of 3 megawatts, and one wind project with an installed capacity of 4 megawatts -- Consolidated Edison Inc.’s 4 MW Russell Point Wind Farm project in Logan County, Ohio.

Despite this growth in solar and geothermal power resources, together these resources account for just over 1% of the nation's total installed operating generating capacity.  Yet the relative growth in solar and geothermal power over the past years has been striking, and is expected to continue for the near term.  Will these resources soon play a larger role in the nation's energy portfolio?

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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